Monday, January 15, 2001

Students find help at Lakota

Alternative program offers second chance

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer Contributor

        WEST CHESTER TWP. — Its name, Wokini, is a Sioux word that means new beginning.

        That's what educators in the Lakota school district are hoping to give 20 students who will be selected to attend Wokini Academy, an alternative program that should open next month in rented space at 9076 Cox Road.

        Jacob Fields, 17, is one of those students. Although he is the typical age of a junior, Jacob is short on credits, and thus classified as a sophomore at Lakota East High School.

        “It will help me catch up on credit to graduate on time,” Jacob said.

        Wokini is the second phase of a two-part project begun this year with a $220,000 Ohio Department of Education grant. The first phase started last fall when the district initiated an alternative to out-of-school suspensions for students in grades 7-12.

        It allows students to work on assignments from 3:30- 7:30 p.m. workdays for the duration of their suspension, said Barb Greiwe, who co- ordinates the program. Later this month the time will change to 1-5 p.m. Assignments completed under instructional aide Rhonda Gibson's guidance are counted toward grades and credits.

Study core subjects

               Freshmen and sophomores who are behind in credits will be selected from 50 applicants for Wokini and will be in session for four hours each morning with Ms. Greiwe. They will study core subject areas at their own pace through an Internet-based program that will be piloted for six months at Wokini and Lakota Electronic High School.

        “I did the Internet class (electronic high school) and did really well,” Jacob said. “I can work at my own pace and I like it better when there's not a whole lot of people.”

        Jacob's mom, Kim McGucken, said her son is bright but has not been motivated enough. She looked into strictly Internet-based programs but wants her son supervised so that he would stay focused on his work.

        “There is supervision. That appeals to me. There's someone reminding them they do have goals,” Ms. McGucken said.

        “The instructor will get to know each kid personally. My son won't be just another number or a face in a crowd.”

Develop own identity

               Keeping the alternative school separate from the two senior high schools and the freshman building was important to Ms. Greiwe.

        “Initially we thought of the program as a school within a school,” Mrs. Greiwe said of Wokini, which was first named Project Success in the grant application. “But we want the students to develop a sense of belonging, of ownership, and that's why we've leased a separate facility for three years.”

        In addition to academics, Wokini will include a service component and counseling in anger management or conflict resolution. Students will be allowed to stay in the program until they catch up on credits or may remain until they graduate.


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